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Rockaway Indians- Does our History Haunt our Present?

Monument to the Last Rockaway Indian (in Woodmere)

Rockaway Native Peoples: Any Tie to Long Island Hauntings?

There were those who lived and died and populated our land before the settlers ever came. The Rockaway Native Peoples were here for thousands of years before the white man and perhaps some still hold the white man accountable for what had happened.

The history of the settlers and the native people is good..and it is bad.  Lets take a look at how it all started and some stories of our past haunting us today.

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Thank you to especially these websites: Richmond Hill History Five Towns Local History and


The Rockaway  Native Peoplefrom: Richmond Hill History

“Reckonwacky,” meaning “the place of our own people,” and “Reckanawahaha,” meaning “the place of laughing waters,”

This the name of the Tribe that once inhabited the Rockaway Peninsula. The land took on the name of its people.

From www.richmondhillhistory.org

“ According to Benjamin Franklin Thompson, writing in 1843, (p.95), the Rockaways “were scattered over the southern area of the town of Hempstead, which, with a part of Jamaica and the whole of Newtown[today’s Woodside,Corona, Maspeth] , constituted the bounds of their claim.  Their main settlement was at Near Rockaway.”   [today’s East Rockaway].

It goes to follow that the Rockaway Peninsula also referred to as Far Rockaway has kept its name since that time.


   Archeologists believe that indigenous people occupied the area of Southern New York from about 4600 B.C.  From about 1000 B.C., the native people of this area demonstrated a tradition of farming, permanent or semi-permanent villages and the use of baked pottery vessels.

To put it in perspective:

4600BC-The wheel was invented in Mesopotamia

1000BC- King David became king of the ancient Israelites


The dome-shaped wigwam(from the Library of Congress)

The dome-shaped wigwam shown below (from the Library of Congress), is typical of the bark or thatch-covered single-family housing constructed on the East coast.  The natives of Western Long Island also employed the Iroquois longhouse design, a rectangular shaped lodge covered with bark, which housed several families and were sometimes 100 feet long.”


BELLOTS HISTORY OF THE ROCKAWAYS: (i.e. A white man’s view)

A poem in the introduction of Bellot’s History of the Rockaways translates it as “that lonely place” or “place of waters bright.”

Bellots History of the Rockaways- Read the Original Book here!

Library journal, Volume 45 By Library Association


Long Islandwinds are Mowing fair and free;As when of old, a thousand years ago;They swept the shifting sands, o’erleapt the highest tree.; And through the sandy barrens trampled sloiv; Was there no poetry in those wild days; When Indian braves their love songs murmured low?; When the young mother held her babe in arm.; And Indian luUabys sang sweet and sloiv?; Was there no poetry in those old days; When lifted skies at sunrise arched the dawn?; Where sparkling waters dimpled all the day; And darkling midnights hovered close and warm?

Reckoivhacky, that “lonely place,” that “place

Of waters b?’ight.” Kisseena, “it is cold.”

Ronkonkoma, “the tvild goose’ resting place.”

Manhattan”island hill,” and Maspeth “overflowed.”

Goivanus “here the sleeper rests,” Canarsie

“Fenced place,” andMerrick”here is barren

Land,” “devoid of trees it stands.” Massdpequa

“Great ivater land” — how few, how few they are. THEIR poetry was Nature’s.

Deep within;The heart they held it, but all unexpressedIn rvreathed numbers was the joy they felt.So silent, grave, they lived their lives, and passed.From shore and river, forest-land and plain,They passed away. Of all they saw and wrought.Of all their stately life and utterance,A feiv names glimpse for us their every thought.

-Jessie Fremont Hume (see photo above)


“The English settlers of eastern Long Island, eager to peacefully co-exist with the native Americans, paid the Indians for the land upon which they lived, and although the payments were small, the Indians were given the feeling that they had exchanged or traded their land for something of value- especially when the much desired wampum was used as currency.”

“The primary medium of exchange among the Indians was wampum, ornamental groupings of small sea shells strung on the sinews of small animals or attached to the inner bark of elm trees.” “http://www.richmondhillhistory.org/indians.html#IndianTribes

The coastal Indians of Long Island manufactured wampum beads (photo from the Library of Congress collection) from the colored parts of shells.

TAKAPOUCHA: The Beginning of the End of the Rockaway Native Peoples

Deed to Land 1685

Chief Takapoucha

“In 1685, virtually the entire Rockaway peninsula was purchased from the Rockaway tribe under Tackapausha by John Palmer for “the sume of One and Thirty Pounds and Tenns Shilling Lawfull money.”   Although Hempstead’s town fathers contested the sale, Palmer sold the property in 1687 to Richard Cornwall of Flushing, who had prospered through trade with the native people.”



There is speculation that the Amityville Horror and Poltergeist movies both have some tie to paranormal activity that was documented in the locations of some horrific killings of the native people.

FROM: http://truelegends.info/amityville/poltergeist.htm

 From Truelegends.info

  • “The house was located 1648 Redwood Path, Seaford, NY. This is at the other side of where the greatest number of Indians were killed on Long Island from where the famous Amityville house is located. The two movie made famous by the two separate movie series are a few minutes drive from each other. The great number of Indians were killed near the corner of Merrick and Cedar Shore Roads in Massapequa by John Underhill in 1653. In both the Amityville case and the Poltergeist case an angry Indian chief was killed. This killing was done on behalf of the Dutch. The most famous Sachem (Chief) of the Massapequa Indians was Sachem Tackapausha who sold a large part of the area in 1658. Some point to Tackapausha as being the angry Indian chief that caused the disturbances in what became the Amityville Horror movie, and later the Poltergeist movie.”
  • This is also a story of someone who grew up in Rockaway and believed that they saw a Native American Ghost



“The Spirits Of Fort Massapeag”
“The bodies of possibly hundreds of native Indians were desecrated and disturbed by the construction of the housing development that now sits around the remains of the fort (park) today.  And in many cases , houses sit on top of burial grounds that contain the bodies of hundreds of Massapeag Indians.  The occupants of those houses most likely have no idea what rests below them, but the area in the vicinity of the old fort has been the subject of countless tales of unusual spiritual activity  dating back to the late 1700’s.
(Once story) involved a young family in the neighboring town of Seaford that experienced weeks of unusual activity and flying objects that were documented by local police and town officials.  The house was reported to have been sitting on a the site where Massapeag Indian survivors buried some of the  bodies of their people who died in the massacre at the hands of John Underhill.   This haunting became the basis for the 1980’s horror movie “The Poltergeist”, with the locals calling the spirit that supposedly haunted the house “Popper the Ghost” for its habit of “popping” the tops off of bottles and jars before flinging them across the room.
Could the spirits of those massacred by the English in 1653 be seeking revenge for their deaths or the desecration of their resting places?  Who knows, but uncovering the history of the places we live opens up a unique window to view those who came before us and perhaps those who are still trying to reach us to tell the long forgotten stories of their lives.”
Background on Fort Massepeag
In the Fort Neck section of Massapequa Long Island there exists a small common looking community park which is…. a disguise for the secrets  contained in its “hollowed ground”.  For this small park is built on the site of the only Indian fort ever found on western Long Island and perhaps on the site of the most brutal Indian massacre to have ever taken place on Long Island.
The park sits on the site of Fort Massapeag and is listed as a National Historic Landmark.  This designation is only given to sites the National Park Department feels have the most important links to the nations past.  The location of this Historic Park is kept a closely guarded secret, and few of those who live in its immediate area have heard of Fort Massapeag or what happened there. …
In 1933 when clearing of the land around the fort…bulldozers began to uncover human skeletons and what appeared to be Indian artifacts.  Local newspapers soon discovered the story and reported the grizzly find which resulted in hoards of curious locals and treasure hunters descending on the site and hauling off human remains and artifacts.  Finally, town officials stepped in and stopped the looting, but not until numerous priceless historical artifacts and the remains of many of the Indians who had been killed or buried there had been carted off, disappearing for ever(9).
The story of the Indian massacre is disputed.
One version states that the bodies that were found around and in the fort were those of the local Massapeag Indians who lost a fierce battle in 1653 to the forces of Captain John Underhill, an English solider.  No mercy was shown the Indians, and hundreds were brutally massacred.  An account of the attack contained in an article in the Massapequa Connection (7) tells the morbid tale of Underhill and his men piling the bodies of fallen Massapeag Indians up on the south side of the fort after its fall(where the south boundary of the park exists today) , and than sitting besides them to have their breakfast.
 It goes on to say that more than a hundred years later an author by the name of Samuel Jones wrote that “the spot where the bodies of the natives were piled up was still tinged with a reddish cast, which the old people said was occasioned by the blood of the Indians” It was reported that for generations the survivors of the massacre told of the indignity and horror they felt seeing their loved ones treated in such a fashion.  Other researchers however feel that this attack never really occurred and that the bodies that were found were from Indians traditional sacred burial areas which surrounded the fort and the village.”


“The Indians also helped the settlers by teaching them how to hunt and fish, and how to plant corn which enabled the settlers to survive in this new environment.

While the English settlers managed to exist side-by-side with the Indians, the Dutch immigrants were not so willing to treat the Indians fairly. In exchange for furs and wampum, the Dutch were likely to give the Indians guns and rum. Indians were often murdered by Dutch troublemakers, and the tribes of westernLong Islandturned their guns against settlers more than once. Trouble with the Dutch was one of the factors which eventually drove the Indians fromLong Island. Another was a smallpox epidemic in 1658, which reportedly killed two-thirds of the tribes in the area. Moreover, the influx of white settlers and the resulting expansion of farmland drove animals away, and the Indians who were hunters migrated to the mainland in pursuit of game.  ”

By 1741, it was estimated that only 400 natives remained on the island. By the time of the American Revolution in 1775, Indians were a rare sight on the island, having been driven away from their beloved “Paumanok”. ”


From: Five Towns Local History

“By the 19th Century, most Rockaway Indians had left Long Island or had intermarried generations before. Culluloo Telewana, whom Abraham Hewlett believed to be the last of the Rockaways, instructed young boys like Hewlett in forest lore, woodcraft and fishing.  Whether Culluloo was truly the last of the Rockaways or an escaped slave, is a subject for debate among historians.  Late in life, Hewlett remembered

“Culluloo, the Indian, whom I saw mornings and evenings when he went to and returned from work, that he was very kind … “(Bellot, p.69)

Hewlett recounted that when he died, Culluloo was buried in an unmarked grave in the woods.  When he became a successful businessman, Abraham Hewlett resolved that he would erect a monument to his boyhood friend, who died in 1818.  The monument, built on Broadway at Linden Street in Woodmere, on  Hewlett’s property, was finished on October 17, 1888 – the day Hewlett died.  In 1901, the property was purchased by Robert L. Burton, a land developer, who removed the monument.  Local historian William S. Pettit convinced Burton’s brother, John Howes Burton, to rescue the granite obelisk from oblivion and create a small triangle of land on Wood Lane, where it is still located.  The monument reads:

“Here lived and died Culluloo Telewana, A.D, 1818,
The last of the
Rockaway Iroquois Indians, who was personally known to me in my boyhood.  I, owning the land, have erected this monument to him and his tribe.””

“Riis Park was at first to be named in memory of Cullulloo Telewana, the last surviving Algonquin Indian.

The name was changed to honor Jacob Riis, the champion of the poor in the inner city, who was always trying to get places where the poor could get some fresh air and sunshine. ” – The Wave 3/26/2010







Native Peoples are still round and about through out the New York City area. Aviator has been hosting events during the summer. If you would like to see more about Native Peoples of today please check out this website at National Museum of the American IndianAmerican Indian Community House or a book about the Algonquian Peoples of Long Island (1996)


*November is Native Indian and Alaskan Native Heritage Month.


Check out the calendar of events HERE.

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